Tina and Lucy
MCC Photo/Tina Fehr Kehler

Tina Fehr Kehler and Lucy Hildebrand at MCC's Low German office in Winkler, Manitoba.

Winkler, Manitoba – Lucy Hildebrand finishes up her purchase and tucks it under her arm. She is buying Bible covers as Valentine’s Day gifts for her four children at Die Mennonitische Post Book Store, a store frequented by Low German-speaking Mennonites. Hildebrand then makes her way across the hall to Mennonite Central Committee’s Low German Mennonite Services (LGM) office.

She speaks hesitantly at first, but Tina Fehr Kehler, the LGM Program Coordinator, is impressed with Hildebrand’s English.

Fehr Kehler knows Hildebrand well—she helped the Hildebrands settle into life in Canada when they arrived in February three years ago. The LGM Program works hard to provide information and assistance to families settling into life in a new country.

Most of the Low German families come to Canada out of economic necessity. In Southern Manitoba they find opportunity and community for themselves and their children.

After their arrival in Canada, Low German Mennonites face a big transition. Adapting to Canadian culture is challenging, and having someone to aid in that transition is very beneficial. Fehr Kehler has a great deal of patience when she is assisting people. She says it takes time. “You can’t hit them over the head with everything at once.” 

 

Fehr Kehler revealed that she does a lot of listening. People are willing to share their stories with her because they “build up a relationship of trust,” she says.

Fehr Kehler has supported Hildebrand and her family as an interpreter and a guide. When Hildebrand’s husband, Edward broke his thumb at work, Fehr Kehler helped with phone calls and paperwork. Fehr Kehler also assisted the family when Hildebrand’s daughter was diagnosed with dark blindness.

This kind of communication is just a small part of Fehr Kehler’s role. She works to reduce the cultural divide in the area by educating local service providers about the history, religion and culture of the Low German Mennonites. She also connects newly landed families with translation services, health care and English classes.

Fehr Kehler revealed that she does a lot of listening. People are willing to share their stories with her because they “build up a relationship of trust,” she says.

Lucy Hildebrand is one of the people that Fehr Kehler helped to enrol in English classes. Hildebrand never had much schooling in Paraguay and her ability to learn was stunted when she was traumatized as a child after witnessing the death of her father.

Her English classes have helped her to cope with the experience.

Fehr Kehler revealed that she does a lot of listening. People are willing to share their stories with her because they “build up a relationship of trust,” she says.

Hildebrand is full of praise for Fehr Kehler, who has been both a mentor and a friend. “Tina helped me very much! I am very thankful for her,” Hildebrand says. “Now I can make phone calls!”

Through MCC’s Winkler office, Low German Mennonites have increased access to education, health care, and they have an advocate in the community.

But the program’s most influential component will continue to be its ability to create relationships with people and support them on a personal level.  

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